Like Marlow, Conrad was in for a brutal awakening. For by then the high ideals of exploration had turned into unrestrained exploitation, “a rapacious and pitiless folly”, pillaging the Congo of its ivory in the name of Belgium’s King Leopold II, and subjugating its so-called savage inhabitants with a barbarity which Conrad himself called “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience and geographical exploration” (‘Geography And Some Explorers’).
- Stephen on Joseph Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness. Adaptation below.
Psychiatric Tales (£11-99, Blank Slate) by Darryl Cunningham. COMICBOOK OF THE MONTH CLUB MEMBERS: £9-60
It’s by no means a common experience, but there are some books one starts bursting to write about a mere twenty pages in. PSYCHIATRIC TALES is one of those: a book of such instinctive, level-headed compassion, communication and education which nearly never saw completion on account of the creator’s own deteriorating mental health. A childhood riddled with self-loathing only grew worse in adulthood as Cunningham withdrew at the very time he most craved connection. It was his artistic talent that finally gave him a sense of belonging, whilst his desire to understand his own condition and his natural empathy for others, so clearly evidenced here, led him into work as a health care assistant before training as a student to qualify as a mental health nurse.
“And this is when I overreached myself. This is when I broke.”
After reading the book you will easily comprehend why. It’s no easy job for the sturdiest of individuals but for someone as vulnerable and sympathetic as Darryl, well, it was going to get to him eventually.
The book isn’t about Darryl, though: the preceding pages detail his experiences on the ward and what he learned about various debilitating mental conditions as a result. The very opposite of sensationalist, its measured contents will undoubtedly still prove affecting for there can be few of us who haven’t come into contact with mental illness: schizophrenia with its attendant paranoia and hallucinations; bipolar disorder with its peaks and troughs and compulsion to communicate everything at once; violent anti-social personality disorders; the dementia of Alzheimer’s – the disorientation and delusion and reversion to an earlier period in life; self-harming from anger, self-loathing and a desperation to assert any sort of control even if it involves physical pain as a distraction from the mental anguish; suicide.
Each condition is explained through personal observation and with an education that enables Cunningham to detail current treatments, rebalancing the brain’s chemicals whilst providing the most efficacious environment wherever possible. And without meaning to alarm you, Darryl correctly places an emphasis on one particular truth: it can happen to anyone at any time.
At school the brother of my best friend suddenly started pronouncing himself to be the Second Coming and appointed disciples. I’ve met several self-harmers and known them for years. I know at least one bi-polar, my grandmother slid away from us under Alzheimer’s, someone very close to me is suffering with acute depression and, I guess, most disturbingly of all, a young man I thought brilliant and charming abruptly became barely coherent, violent (he tried to kill his mother and girlfriend) and – because he’d already been misdiagnosed as having a mere behavioural disorder – it took his parents a whole year of research and fighting to get the man properly diagnosed with Cannabis Psychosis and therefore properly treated. I recognise everything I read here. It’s spot-on, including the patient’s delusion, post-recovery, that sustained medication is no longer necessary.
As to the artwork, it’s deceptively simple just like Satrapi’s in PERSEPOLIS for maximum empathy, black shadows casting faces into silhouette, a warning of potential bleak, black moods. It’s the perfect balance between word and picture, so as sequential art it reads like a dream. Or a nightmare.
“The effects of suicide ripple outward. Damaging family, friends and strangers alike. A suicide will leave an average of six people immediately affected by the death. A parent, a significant other, a sibling, or a child of the deceased person. The people are referred to as the survivors. These are the ones left to suffer. Never knowing why, always wondering if he could have done more.”
The Wild Kingdom h/c (£14-99, Drawn & Quarterly) by Kevin Huizenga.
“This book messes with your head so beautifully you would think you were married to it.”
- Tom in his preview
From the creator of Page 45 Comicbook Of The Month CURSES.
One of the aspects of Huizenga’s work that often escapes discussion is that he’s so very funny. Whether it’s the clip-‘em-and-collect-’em spotters’ guides (“BEETLE. ‘Black Night’ Dangerous. Unite to form Devastator. There is no you. Attaches to eyeballs”) or the hilariously over-extended saga of the pigeon in the road who (flashback!) stopped to gorge itself on stomach-cramping chips only to find his dizziness leading to disaster.
This is the Wild Kingdom of nature at uneasy home in suburbia, and everyman Glenn Ganges uneasy with everything. His house plants are dead, his apples are rotten, and bugs bite him at night. It’s a series of short stories and features that reprise them. The diagrams and glossaries put one in mind of Chris Ware, especially since it’s one enormous mid-life crisis of bewilderment and anxiety, and a futile attempt to stave them off with labels that lie and the reassuring promises made by advertisements for the latest Hot New Thing. They flash before us day after day in a mind-numbing, epilepsy-inducing stroboscope of more things to worry about not possessing yourself. You need this product, on SALE now! Hurry while stocks last!
“Do you suffer from any of these symptoms: coughing, sleeplessness, nausea, bad credit (‘Sigh… Is it that obvious?’) or no credit? Hay fever, chest pains, wrinkles, fat droopy jowls, nausea?
“Well now there’s Hope for people ages 30-83. (‘I can breathe again.’)
“Ask your doctor for more information. See our ad in The Comics Journal.
“Side effects may vary: difficulty breathing, heart attack, nausea, angst, Schadenfreude, rabies, reactionary politics, or shyness.”
Meanwhile the Famous Ghost (long-forgotten Belgian symbolist playwright and semi-philosophical essayist) recalls his former triumphs musing on religion, fate, and “nature’s great and terrible puzzles” in a series of books like The Life Of The Bee (1901), The Life Of The White Ant (1927) and Pigeons And Spiders (1936).
“They might strike an early 21st Century reader as eccentric popular science written by an elegant depressive, as well as funny, insofar as one might find endless, misguided metaphysical digressions of Eeyore-like negativity funny. All my books are out of print.”
The book culminates emphatically in a single minor interface between nature and science (our previously identified pigeon and an overhead electricity wire) that leads to an Armageddon whose elegantly choreographed escalation had me weeping with laughter.
We’re doomed! (Although you could try Prozac Extra Palliative - the H.N.T. with 45% extra What Planet Am I On?)
Cuba: My Revolution h/c (£18-99, Vertigo) by Inverna Lockpez & Dean Haspiel…
CUBA: MY REVOLUTION presents to us the story of Sonya, a young idealist and firm supporter of Castro and his Marxist revolution which took place in Cuba in the late ’50s and still isolates the country today; although many people might actually point out with some validity that’s really down to successive American governments rather than Castro himself.
Still, Dean Haspiel, illustrator of THE ALCOHOLIC personally asked Inverna Lockpez to write this work which is clearly at least semi-autobiographical, and equally clearly a topic close to Haspiel’s heart. It’s easy to see from Sonya’s naively youthful perspective how many Cubans genuinely believed the deposing of the American puppet leader President Batista by Castro and his guerrillas would usher in a new golden age for Cuba, one from which all of its citizens would benefit, not just the wealthy upper classes holding sway on the island at that time. And in doing so it also neatly illustrates how markedly differences in opinions on that subject were held within the same households, much like Jason Lutes’ BERLIN shows how supporters of the diametrically opposing factions of Communism and Nationalism in pre-Nazi Germany could live literally side by side, at least until the violence and chaos really began.
By exploring from a wholly Cuban perspective what was occurring at a social level immediately before and after Castro’s takeover, including world-shaking events like the Bay of Pigs invasion and Cuban Missile Crisis, we gain a remarkable insight into what life was really like for the people of a hitherto relatively insignificant island. A people suddenly and unexpectedly finding themselves at the absolute epicentre of the geo-political turmoil and posturing that was festering between America and Russia at the time.
Set in particular against the backdrop of Cuba’s artistic community, from whom so many had such high hopes initially for the Castro regime, it’s a sobering exploration and explanation of how something which started with such good intentions could gradually but inexorably turn into something entirely darker. And given what Sonya goes through, it’s surprising her belief in Castro’s regime isn’t wrecked sooner; instead that finally comes when her heart is broken with the return of her first love who had fled Cuba to escape the previous regime. They’d talked passionately about their belief in Castro and what he could do for Cuba should he manage to grasp power, so when instead she finds her love fighting alongside those now trying to depose Castro, it causes her to finally stop and question everything she’d always believed.
Wonderful storytelling from Lockpez, desperately unsettling and upsetting at times, and who given it’s her first work really grows into her own narrative style as the work progresses, and of course lovingly and touchingly illustrated by Haspiel who above anything else captures the passion of the Cuban people for their country.
Cages s/c (£22-50, Dark Horse) by Dave McKean.
In the same block of rented flats we find an artist terrified by his blank canvas, a woman waiting for her husband to return, an author and his wife who seem to stand back as sinister men remove treasured possessions, a black cat, a dreadlocked jazzman/philosopher with stones that sing, and a batty old trout in desperate need of a fully functioning hearing aid. Here she is taking the artist upstairs to his room:
“Supper’s up, Mrs. Featherskill. That’s our Mrs. Featherskill. Lovely woman. Plain and lovely. We’re all plain and lovely here, dear.”
“Oh yes, have my cases arrived yet?”
“Your stuff arrived last night, dear.”
“My cases… arrived.”
“That’s what I said. Do pay attention, dear. I’ve only got one lung…. Here we are then, dear. I’ve got the thingy here somewhere. Now, let’s see. Mr. Easel, isn’t it?”
“It’s a month in advance, less deposit.”
“My names Sabarsky. Leo Sabarsky.”
“My name. Sabarsky.”
“Well, where’s Mr. Easel, then?”
“I think that’s the description of the…”
“Look, I’ve got a room for a Mr. Easel. I can’t let anybody in.”
“I think, look… that’s me there.”
“If you’re not who you’re supposed to be, well, that’s no good, is it? We can’t go around not being the right people, otherwise, well, what’s life all about anyway?”
“It’s okay, that’s me there.”
“”Mr. Sabarsky.” So who’s this, then?”
“That says “Master Easel”. This is the same docket I filled out for the removals people. Master Easel, six packing cases, chest of draws, dum-de-dum, see? Master Easel…”
“It’s a big easel.”
“… Well… I suppose that’s all right, then. But if Mr. Easel wants his room, it’s be your liability.”
As these disparate stories converge, the nature of the cages in question becomes clearer, and we move inexorably towards a violent, full-colour climax.
The finest work of McKean’s career, the storytelling is reminiscent of Gaiman, Dave Sim and, at times, Alan Bennett. Unlike McKean’s busier works using sculpture and collage, this is far sleeker. The blacks are luscious, the pen line sharp and the grey-blues beautiful; juxtapositions and overlays are cleverly positioned so that, as Terry Gilliam says, this massive, album-sized work becomes “mesmerising”. Nearly 500-pages long, with impeccable reproduction values, this is insane value for money. Also, please note: Dark Horse books like BLACKSAD and BEASTS OF BURDEN have recently been going straight out of print within a fortnight - no exaggeration.
Lucky In Love: A Poor Man’s History vol 1 h/c of 2 (£14-99, Fantagraphics) by George Chieffet & Stephen DeStephano.
“I was having a dream.”
“When aren’t you?”
“I had hair.”
Lucky is an old man now, dozing in front the TV and dreaming of spectacular space battles and glamorous celebrations on elaborate staircases reminiscent of Hollywood musicals. But back in 1942 he was fifteen and five-foot-three (“the tallest I ever was”), best friends with Little Italy’s tough guy Babe, hotwiring his Dad’s bakery van at night, watching cowboy movies, starting to date girls, worrying his Ma and arguing with his friends about whether to enlist in the navy or air corps.
“If a ship sinks, you gotta swim to shore.”
“I don’t swim so good myself.”
“Well, shrimp, I don’t fly so good myself.”
“Lay off that shrimp stuff!”
In the end he couldn’t pass the test so Lucky never got to Flight School; he never got to fly, but became an air corps mechanic instead, and pretty low down the ladder at that. Little Italy’s Morrie Veingarten got to fly, in the Jenna Potter which Lucky serviced himself. But early on Morrie’s plane went down over the Pacific, leaving Lucky haunted by what might have happened. What might have happened to Morrie, and whether Lucky’s work on the plane was at fault. Then other veterans began to return from the likes of Iwo Jima, crippled, blind or disfigured:
“That guy’s face all bandaged up and the bullet hole where there should have been an eye was tough to look at. Sure, I was pretty safe in Honolulu, but I thought about getting killed, or losing an eye, like I thought about sex all the time.”
Lucky might have been fixated on sex, but he was inexperienced. Inexperienced and small, all bluff and bluster, and easily caught out. That’s the problem with lies: they need to be constantly backed up, reinforced, evaded. And so after discharge Lucky returns to New Jersey but it doesn’t feel right. Nothing has changed, only him. And he’s hailed as a hero, though he knows that he wasn’t. He knows he was nothing of the kind.
I loved this book. It reminded me of Eisner. Partly it was the period with its discrimination, here seen from an Italian’s point of view, that voiced itself in flagrant racism, and also the emphasis on climbing the ladder:
“Amounting to something – that’s all anyone talked about back then – money, marriage and mortgage.”
But it’s also the voice. A different narrative voice with a different dialect, to be sure, but one equally as assured: I could hear the accent in my head. It doesn’t skimp on the language, either, and the creators feel the need to apologise in advance for the ethnic slurs. That’s how it was; that’s how it should be told.
As to the art, apparently DeStephano began his career on the Ren And Stimpy Show, but apart from the immaculate storytelling, I’d never have guessed. Here his influences are far older, and ASTERIOS POLYP’s David Mazzucchelli comments that his “agile cartooning evokes the seeming simplicity of an earlier time, yet LUCKY reads like the story that was really going on behind the heroism and glamour of the ‘golden age’ strips.”
Proper Go Well High h/c (£14-99, Blank Slate) by Oliver East…
“Right, let’s go.
“I start the walk from the elevated platforms 13 & 14, safe in the assumption there’s no prostitutes out at this hour so I can walk where I please.
“I try to keep the tracks to my left as it’ll give me an excuse to draw some of my favourite buildings, such as the old fire station and U.M.I.S.T.
“Moving on, I vaguely chastise myself for being disappointed that there are no tramps under the arches between Sackville Street and Princess Street.
“It’s a good thing no one’s sleeping there.
“Good for them.
“They would have been nice to draw though.
“I feel shame’s hand pulling me on.”
More TRAINS ARE… MINT travelogue-cum-stream of consciousness adventuring from Oliver East as he meanders alongside the train tracks from Manchester to Liverpool. Whether he’s analysing architecture, thinking about odd presents he received from his dad as a child, or mentally calculating the (unlikely) odds of being sexually molested on a particularly lonely footbridge, he’s always sketching inside his mind. Capturing the landscape and the passer-by, and then punctuating the artwork with his very own unique brand of social commentary, often at the expense of the typically northern English characters he meets along the way. He’s not trying to see the world, or seek out new civilisations, but instead he’s just content to ably show us what beauty and bizarreness, urban and natural, there is all around us, rather nearer than we think if we just put on our shoes and start walking. As before the art is rendered from memory in inks and watercolour in his own delightfully abstract style. Detail isn’t necessarily important, although there’s plenty of it, but capturing the feel of a location and the mood of a moment of interaction is key. But what legacy will Oliver leave behind, as a human being and a graphic novelist? I’ll leave the last word to Oliver…
“You tell some people you do comics and they give you a look.
“It’s like you’ve just told them you’ve got AIDS, like, ‘oh dear, well, we’re here if you need us.’”
“Or you’ve just done a nasty hangover fart, like, ‘oh really, did you have to?’”
“I’d be lying if I said it didn’t matter what people thought.
“But when I die and they find a load of unsold books under my bed, and I’m recognised as the genius of the form I was…
“Then you’ll see.
“YOU’LL ALL SEE.”
[Editor's note: some of this material was originally presented in TRAINS ARE.. MINT #5, Page 45's Comicbook Of The Month May 2008.]
Berlin And That h/c (£14-99, Blank Slate) by Oliver East and many random and various contributors…
Oliver East’s third TRAINS ARE… MINT book sees him venturing a little farther afield this time, taking a stroll from Berlin’s Alexanderplatz to Frankfurt near the Polish border, all the while of course keeping as close to the train tracks as he possibly can. As with his two previous works it’s the journey that’s important though, not the ultimate destination. The main difference for this particular book is that Oliver gave one finished page of artwork each to various friends, artists, non-artists, musicians and “pro-drinkers” and asked them to alter the pages exactly as they wanted. The results are intriguing, as much for what people have chosen to alter, as the manner in which they’ve chosen to do it. Oliver’s artwork still carries the story strongly though, and typically the alterations are mere embellishments, and in any event account for about a third of the pages of the book. And as ever, it’s Oliver’s social commentary on the people he stumbles across, and the random autobiographical asides that will tickle you and keep you chuckling.
Stitches s/c (£11-99, Norton) by David Small.
“When you have no voice, you don’t exist.”
David Small is no novice: an illustrator with dozens of awards under his belt, he is an irrefutably successful artist with such immaculate ink washes over the most supple lines that it’s no surprise to find Jules Feiffer amongst many singing his praises. But he had one of the most wretched childhoods imaginable, and this is that childhood laid bare, under the constant threat of a mother “coiled tight inside her shell of angry, resentful silence”.
The ironies abound, not least that it is your mother and father above all others that you should be able to rely on to protect you. That his father was doctor, a healer of others, is another. But to discover that it was his father who caused Small’s cancer and his mother who refused to endorse the cost of surgery to correct their neglect for three and a half years after its diagnosis as a cyst in favour of a spending spree on household appliances and parties… It should come as no surprise, then, to learn that it took a friend of the family to point out the growth on David’s neck in the first place. They simply hadn’t noticed because they simply didn’t care. David was born with sinuses and a digestive system that didn’t work properly.
“However, Dad was a doctor. He knew what to do. Dad prescribed the medicines for my frequent bouts with this and that. Dad gave me shots. And enemas. Dad put me on his treatment table and ‘cracked my neck’, our family nickname for the osteopathic manipulations he had learned in medical school. And it was Dad the radiologist who gave me the many X-rays that were supposed to cure my sinus problems… To me, Dad and his colleagues seemed like the heroic men featured in the ads in Life Magazine, marching bravely into the bright and shining future. They were soldiers of science, and their weapon was the X-ray. X-rays could see through clothes, skin, even metal. They were miraculous wonder rays that would cure anything.”
This was before scientists discovered what X-rays could cause. There’s a great deal more to this book than this review’s going to cover. Small’s mother and his mother’s own mother in particular begin to make ‘sense’ as David delves deeper. Indeed there are revelations ahead which in no way excuse their behaviour but go some way to explain it. Nor is there an ounce of self-pity about this tale of stifling, household oppression – of heavy silences punctuated by the smashing of crockery and the bashing of drums – and Small’s subsequent running off the rails and Alice-In-Wonderland nightmares. But imagine going into hospital, after those three and a half years waiting, for what your parents assure you is a harmless operation, then waking up to discover your young throat “slashed and laced back up like a bloody boot” with your thyroid gland and one of your vocal chords missing. You no longer have a voice. And neither of your parents will tell you why.
There’s plenty more head-shaking in store for you but also, as I’ve said, some glorious strokes of the brush, whether it’s David’s young frame or his mother’s friends’ chic hairstyles, dresses and shoes. And then there’s his mother, a remarkably vivid portrait of pent-up hostility: the look on her face when her son’s cyst is first pointed out to her is the very opposite of maternal concern or terror; it’s one of naked disgust.
Fokke & Sukke (£5-99) by John Reid, Bastiaan Gelenijnse & Jean-Marc van Tol ~
If you liked the utterly un-PC humour of MODERN TOSS or Dr Parsons, you need Fokke & Sukke! A duckling and a chick, respectively, they parade around with no trousers, passing morally ambiguous and utterly offensive comments with their junk hanging out. Kind of like a more intelligent, anthropomorphic Kevin and Perry, and like Harry Enfield and Kathy Burke’s horrid teenage ravers, Fokke & Sukke are a satirical window upon society. I’m assuming as the cartoon first appeared in Dutch student magazine Propria Cures, that the fowl reprobates are students themselves, which certainly explains how much they drink.
The artist Jean-Marc came in recently and in spite of creating such immensely rude cartoons he was an wonderful bloke with a sweet sense of humour; when I broached the subject of FOKKE & SUKKE being rude, he merely raised an eye-brow and said, “They aren’t rude. You should see some of the stuff in Amsterdam!” I would, dear, but I’m afraid I’ll go blind!
When he was in store, Jean-Marc was kind enough to sign the copies we have with unique Page 45-centric sketches! Strictly limited, mind. First come, first served and as long as your standing order (if you have one) is cleared.
The Ticking h/c reprint (£14-99, Top Shelf) by Renée French ~
“I bought The Ticking at Page 45 in Nottingham. It was the single most unsettling experience I have managed to obtain in my life for twelve pounds and ninety nine pence. It was beautiful and oddly sweet and yet it sits in the unlit corners of my head where it makes strange faces and weird chittering noises to itself. Sometimes it does nasty things with tweezers and surgical implements. Please buy it and read it, so perhaps it will crawl out of my head and into yours and then I will finally be able to sleep peacefully once again.”
- Neil Gaiman
One day Renée will do a horror book to rival BLACK HOLE and people will finally realise just how horrendously talented she is. And it’s a shame that it will mean cramming her whimsical, pillowy pencils into such a specific genre, because the stories she puts out are wholly indefinable. You can’t just put them in a box and I like that. The closest comparison I can make is to David Lynch, only with heart.
“The Ticking is the story of Edison Steelhead, a boy who at birth takes his mother’s life and his father’s deformed face. Secreted away by his father to be raised in a remote island lighthouse, Edison relates to his surroundings in the only way he knows how — by capturing them in his sketchbook. Able to find beauty in even the most grotesque of things, Edison embraces his own unsettling appearance and sets out to confront the rest of the world. Waiting for him on its alien shores are the sights and experiences that will give shape to both his future and his past.”
Walking Dead Compendium vol 1 (£45-00, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard.
Books one to eight, or #1-48, in a single monster wodge.
Amulet vol 3: The Cloud Searchers (£8-50, Graphix) by Kazu Kibuishi.
Inspired by the films of Hayao Miyazaki and a fair few console games, this gorgeous, all-ages series full of breath-taking fantasy landscapes and weird, wonderful and often alarming creatures packs plenty of punch. I thought I was just going to skim the third book to keep up to speed, but it sucked me right back in and kept me riveted. It’s the finest instalment yet.
Following his son’s failure to kill Emily, the young human Stonekeeper, the Elf King has dismissed the rebellious Prince Trellis and brought in a professional assassin called Gabilan, clad in ebony armour and riding a ferocious bird of prey. His targets: Emily, her companions… and Prince Trellis himself. Meanwhile, our band of heroes set off in search of the lost city of Cielis, leaving behind the bipedal sanctuary, the ultimate in mobile homes. Some say Cielis was razed to the ground by the Elves, others that the Guardian Council and its five Great Stonekeepers managed to hide it among the clouds, there to be rebuilt in safety. That’s what Emily’s grandfather Silas believed, but he never managed to find it. Nor has the reluctant Captain of the airship they hire to fly into heart of a raging storm. As the ruthless Gabilan closes in, the ship comes under attack from Wyverns, monstrous feral dragons. They’re hungry, very hungry, and not everyone will make it through.
Why does the Elf King wear a mask? Why does Trellis have virtually no memory of his childhood? And what lurks in the storm itself?
More high-speed chases, ferocious battles and mechanised armour suits. Towns reminiscent of early Final Fantasy and floating outposts reminiscent of Roger Dean’s.
The arrival of Gabilan raises the stakes, and the addition of Emily and Navin’s mother, now rescued, shifts the balance in an unexpected way. Alarmed equally at her alien surroundings and her children’s familiarity with them, all she wants to do is take them home, but that’s not even an option. For a start, if the land is to survive this new rampage of the dark elves, they must find the Guardian Council; secondly, the Stone which endows Emily with such powerful abilities, and speaks to her in her dreams, won’t let her leave.
The Art Of Pho (£14-99, Jonathan Cape) by Julian Hanshaw ~
A strange alien called Little Blue finds himself alone in a strange land which, although it looks inhospitable, slowly begins to turn into a bustling town in Vietnam (which I know sounds unlikely but I was given no sense of movement). There he almost inexplicably falls into a job serving noodles out of a cart, and living with a cast of aggravating and empty back-packers. People who Little Blue seems utterly obsessed with; perhaps he relates.
I’ve had this on my reading pile for a while now, and having tried hard to read it several times, found it utterly banal. If Julian had just made an honest book of enthusiasm for the food or the culture in modern Vietnam then this would have been enjoyable but I get the feeling he lacked the confidence in himself as a writer and had to inject it with a “story.”
The honest travelogue is there, you can see it in the expressive array of media he uses on the page – napkins, doodles, stains and many different paper textures – but it’s patchy, unfocused and completely secondary to the apathetic plot. Julian’s difficulty in creating a fictional world shows, it feels forced and I don’t think he enjoyed himself in this aspect of the book, certainly not as much as he liked the art duties. And what is with Little Blue? As a protagonist he was completely un-relatable and as an avatar for the reader to immerse himself in this culture, he was a confused and far too busy-looking. You need an indistinct, blank design for a character like that so that the reader can project her/himself on to it. And that just disappointed me so much, as that is a basic comic storytelling tool even children instinctively grasp.
So in short, Julian Hanshaw can draw a mean bowl of soup, but he has a lot to learn about the art of storytelling.
I Am Legion h/c (£22-50, Humanoids) by Fabien Nury & John Cassady.
London, December 1942 and, in the extensive wine cellar of an expensive house, an important man called Wilkes sits tied to the chair. He’s on the inner circle of the war effort fighting the Nazis. A second man stands imperiously above him, drinking Cognac, then slits the belly of his own forearm, right down the length. Some time later the mansion is pulverised by an explosion from within, but the man who walks away looks uncommonly like Wilkes.
Romania, December 1942, and there’s a young girl overlooking the snow-crested mountains, recalling a battle between the Ottomans and her brother, during which her brother gathered all his prisoners – all 28,000 of them – and had them impaled on the ridge of one of those mountains. That took the wind out of the Sultan’s sails, and Ottomans fell back in retreat.
“And you were there?”
“Of course… I was there, beside the Sultan.”
There’s a war going on. Or are there two? Abroad there’s a resistance on one side, and a series of horrific experiments on the other. Back at home there’s an investigation into the body found in the burnt out mansion. It’s all connected, but the team sent to unravel the puzzle are only just beginning to scratch the sinister surface, and they have troubles within. Who knew that a safe combination could be so poignant?
Every time I review PLANETARY I keep meaning to include Laura in the credits because her coluring contributes so much to the beauty of the books, and does so equally here. Great script, well balanced, and the remarkable art of John Cassady.
The Amazing Screw-On Head And Other Curious Objects (£13-50, Dark Horse) by Mike Mignola.
‘”It’s as you always say, sir – all really intelligent people should be cremated –”
“For the sake of national security!”‘
Fifty pages of all-new Mike Mignola accompany this bonkers gem of tongue-in-cheek absurdity which strode straight in to become my favourite Mignola work to date. Reading like an accelerated LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, it’s a Victorian gothic science-fantasy action-adventure comedy in which President Lincoln calls on the eponymous hero to gird a spare set of loins and save the day from the potentially disastrous excavations of the lunatic Emperor Zombie. Searching in Egypt for the Bangang Agro-Eash, the left eye of Nog – a melon-sized jewel worshipped by the wizards of Mu – emperor Zombie instead unearths a mouldy old turnip. With a small, parallel universe inside.
Very, very funny, with all the shadowy tombs you’ve come to expect from the crypt-licious Mike Mignola.
My favourite of the new short stories – which may even rival the above – is The Prisoner Of Mars wherein a quartet of distinguished gentlemen puff on cigars in a dark corner of a pub and exchange accounts of their derring-do. Indeed it is remarkable that Doctor Snap is alive and well, having recently been tried and executed for the murder of his friend Professor Cyclops at his home in Blackmoor after being called there after a meteor shower. Technically he was guilty, medically he was dead, but his spirit made it to Mars where it’s confined to a robot body shaped like a frying pan and meets his old mate in the form a translucent jellyfish:
“Tell me, Snap, how is it that you’re here?”
“When I finally did make it to Blackmoor and found you spouting that Martian gibberish — Well, I got pretty excited about it and I’m afraid I cut your head off.”
“No harm, really, as I was no longer using it, but I guess they hanged you for it.”
“They did me like a pirate.”
“I’m sorry about that.”
Also includes The Magician And The Snake from by Katie Mignola (aged 7), a reworking of Abu Gung And The Beanstalk, story notes and sketches.
Transmetropolitan vol 8: Dirge new edition (£10-99, Vertigo/DC) by Warren Ellis & Darick Robertson, Rodney Ramos.
Previously in TRANSMETROPOLITAN:
Campaigning journalist Spider Jerusalem has set his sights on grinning American President Callahan. Gradually he’s been connecting the dots and building an archive of evidence that links the President to the murder of Vita Severn. He’s getting close. Very close.
An outbreak of Blue Flu – a secretly organised strike on the part of the police under the guise of illness – has been ordered from on high, ensuring that most cops are off the street and surveillance there is minimal. A sniper in a Blur Suit has opened fire on civilians from a rooftop overlooking the Print District from which the city’s entire media operates – it’s been evacuated. And the worst weather imaginable is hammering down from above, building into something truly brutal. Something is about to happen in the city that no one will be watching, no one will be warned about, and there will be no emergency services to pick up the pieces. But if Spider honestly thinks he’s figured it out, he’s in for a rude awakening.
Also this volume, we finally learn the truth behind Jerusalem’s hallucinations and nosebleeds. So does he. Blackout:
“I don’t feel very well.
“In fact, I feel like a dog shat in my heart. And someone appears to have stolen the world. I always knew that would happen.
“That’ll teach them not to listen to me. I tried to tell them, but ohhh no. Of course, I was naked at the time. Which obviously distracted them. In the church.
“Oh, my god. They stole my cigarettes too.”
The World’s Greatest Superheroes s/c (£2-50, DC) by Paul Dini & Alex Ross.
Almost A4-sized reprint of all those huge, floppy Dini and Ross one-shot morality tales (BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME, SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH, WONDER WOMAN: GOSSIP IN THE SCULLERY etc.) in one won’t-droop-over-the-sides-of-your-bookcase volume. Pretty good value for money it is too. Ross has a unique take on DC superheroes, it seems to me, in that his versions really do show their age. Batman’s coming up to 50, Wonder Woman’s approaching the same age and Superman’s face and physique are those of someone at least 65, if in remarkably buff condition. Why…? I don’t know but it does lend them a weight and a sense of authority – a seniority over their peers – that others’ interpretations seldom convey. This also contains JLA: SECRET ORIGINS, JLA: LIBERTY & JUSTICE and SHAZAM!: POWER OF HOPE, one heck of a lot of sketchwork plus two enormous landscape paintings in the form of a double-sided, four-page fold-out. I’ve dug out some of my original reviews from when the floppies first appeared.
SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH. A first-class seasonal story, convincingly narrated by the being called Superman, who finds that one man’s capabilities and the best will in the world cannot overcome the politics of men. Gorgeously painted, quiet, thoughtful and dignified. Recommended for all ages. That was truncated for a Recommended Reading List because I know I also mentioned Ross’ African animals which would have fixated me as a young man.
BATMAN: WAR ON CRIME I found more problematic: Look, it’s very beautiful. It’s very, very beautiful. It’s also rather disappointing. What was I expecting? I don’t know; perhaps I hadn’t thought this through in advance. I think this is the first Alex Ross work which has taken superheroes away from an epic background and tried to pop them into contemporary grocery stores. Now, you tell me, how precisely is someone wearing latex and a cape going to ‘sneak’ silently between these pencil-thin aisles to ambush a thief (with what I believe is called a ‘batarang’) without knocking the Twinkies flying? Nor, parenthetically, have I ever seen a grocery store so fully stocked or beautifully arranged, before or after a masked crusader comes squeak-creaking past the chewing gum and prophylactics. Of course, this doesn’t matter in most superhero comics – design can take care of such silliness and create a dynamic spectacle – but Ross is a realist and the ‘real’ Batman here is patently too bulky for the very real aisle. Where Ross excels is in the majestic, the epic and indeed, conversely, in a boardroom filled with normal, underpants-on-the-inside, real-estate-dealing speculators. MARVELS worked so well because Kurt cleverly combined for Ross the street perspective of the photographer with the magnificent, other-worldly spectacle he was gazing at from below. So those scenes featuring Bruce are fine; Ross’s interior and exterior scenes where Gotham’s elite network are magnificent.
But, oh no, here we come to the story. It’s an excellent introduction to those who have never encountered Batman before: it’s an everything-you-need-to-know about Bruce, his loss, his tortured existence, the scars on his back (metaphorical or otherwise), his luxury lifestyle and his nightly excursions. For those of us who’ve read a single decent Batbook, it’s superfluous. In fact it’s a facile cliché: urban poverty, nasty gunmen, here comes an orphan; Bruce has a flashback, boy turns to crime (must involve drugs), Batman turns him round, then Bruce spends a few pennies and miraculously solves all the ghetto’s problems. Ta-da!
The scene in which we first stumble across this particular orphan is genuinely arresting. The layout of the double-page spread is perfect, the model he choose for the boy can evidently act, and Ross evokes the mutual shock and horror with great pathos. And, if you’ve forgotten after this unexpectedly unfavourable review which I really didn’t want to write, this book is beautiful. So enjoy the pictures. They’re very big.
SHAZAM!: THE POWER OF HOPE. A return to form for Dini and Ross, who seem much more capable in the bright light of day and on a grander scale than on the streets of Gotham or dealing with everyday problems. For those of you unfamiliar with DC’s acquisition, Billy Batson, now working at a radio station, is a young orphan able to swap himself when required with Captain Marvel; they share an innocent outlook on life, and Ross’s triumph here is the evocation of Billy’s features in the broad-set Captain whenever his naivety is exposed. If it’s all a little nicer than nice, well, that works a good deal better for the creators than when they tried to introduce a darker element. When their heroes are setting standards to aspire to (occasionally a little clumsily, but more often than not gently), they’re doing fine, especially when limitations are reached (which is why the Superman volume succeeded). Unfortunately there is one howler in this book which destroys both the subplot and, consequently, the finale. One of the lads in the hospital Batson visits was beaten up by his Father. So what does the Captain do? He threatens him. Physically. Not only is it entirely out of character, but you just don’t bully a bully. It may be one’s immediate, knee-jerk and quite natural desire, but, hey, add to the cycle, why don’t you? I never expected to say this, but even SPAWN handled this better, showing the nasty repercussions which aren’t even suggested as a possibility here. A tad irresponsible.
WONDERWOMAN: SPIRIT OF TRUTH. Fourth giant-sized annual from painter Alex Ross and, like SUPERMAN: PEACE ON EARTH, the premise is a good one, that there are limits to what the best intentions of a single person can achieve, howsoever good-hearted and suped-up they may be. Wonderwoman can help in disasters, take down criminals, but when she ventures into foreign affairs, hoping to stop the practice of using human shields in a war zone, her involvement creates fear amongst those she seeks to help. So she talks to Clark Kent, who has experienced such frustrations and who suggests that the view from street level is substantially different from the perspective of one who can fly; and she might perhaps try working with people rather than above them. So she does. She goes on protest marches – and averts an escalation by snapping a gun in two; she attends a peaceful demonstration against loggers operating in a rain forest which the country’s government has already been paid substantial amounts of money to preserve – and secretly sabotages their equipment with her super-strength. And she returns (in disguise) to the country where she met an impasse, joining the human shields as they’re about to be moved to another area where the bombs will be falling – and blows up the truck, freeing the women.
Now, if the idea of the book is to educate young readers about some of the world’s injustices, I think these are great vehicles. They’re beautiful, awe-inspiring, and written with accessible language. I’d certainly recommend the SUPERMAN volume to any parent buying it for a youngster. But more than most superhero tales this and the SHAZAM volume demonstrate Dave Sim’s contention that the entire genre is strictly Mummy’s Boy fodder. That the solutions offered above are, even in this context, no such thing – there would be nothing to stop the dictatorship rounding up and replacing the women the second kindly Diana leaves the stage – is just a flaw of the book. But each one of Diana’s little tricks also involves the use of a superpower, the private fantasy of the Mummy’s Boy who’d love to just kick those bullies’ asses if only he had cawwabungium claws. Which he doesn’t. And – maybe I just got out of the wrong side of the bed this morning – I think this is… distracting. Whenever important issues are brought ‘realistically’ into the superhero genre it is rare that they aren’t trivialised partly because, superheroes not actually existing, the solutions are impossible. We don’t have that magic wand. We’ve got to deal with things as they stand.
JLA: LIBERTY & JUSTICE. Time for Alex Ross’ annual outing of po-faced pugilism, this time featuring a completely new, New or “new” adventure for the Justice League of America. The Martian Manhunter looks splendid, but Alex has tripped one step too far in his obsessive search for realism, and managed to make The Flash look exactly like some stupid actor wearing a silly rubber costume. I’m thinking of those two minutes of some godforsaken Justice League straight-to-TV movie I endured whilst doing the ironing one Sunday, propped up against the chaise longue, having lost my remote control under the antimacassar.*
*I don’t really have an antimacassar. I don’t really do the ironing. I don’t even get up on Sundays.
Iron Man: Noir h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Scott Snyder & Manuel Garcia.
1939, and Tony Stark is Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones, only with far more money and a great deal of press coverage. In fact he has his very own writer accompanying his increasingly reckless escapades, which are then published in Marvels: A Magazine Of Men’s Adventure. How much they’re exaggerated I’m not sure. Modok, Fin Fang Foom and the Bloodstone Gem are all cover features. As to Jarvis, Snyder’s gone the opposite route to Millar and instead of turning him into a petulant old queen, he’s buffed him up into a no-nonsense medic, mechanic, and gruff old soldier, an ex-prisoner of war with Stark’s father:
“On the table. Now.”
“I meant it.. On the table. I’ve been waiting for over an hour. What do you think I am — your bloody butler?”
The table’s an operating one, by the way. Tony’s always had trouble with his heart, in every way possible.
Half the fun of these series is to discover for yourselves the ways in which the writer has reassigned various familiar protagonists, so I’ll give you a few hints, make many omissions, and leave it at that: they’re on their way to Atlantis, but Namor is no Submariner and Dorma ain’t no Lady except by name; Madame does get to wear a Masque but it’s made from something altogether different; Stark’s father did invent Arsenal, and there’s plenty of armour on offer – they’re like giant, mechanical scarecrows - and this just as much fun as Geoff Johns’ OLYMPUS. Also, I lied somewhere earlier, but it was misdirection on Snyder’s part too.
Garcia’s art is as robust as you’d like for a yarn of this nature which, unlike some modern Marvel Comics (including the first SPIDER-MAN and X-MEN NOIR book), would actually make a cracking action gift for even pre-teen readers. It’s not remotely Noir but Lord, if only the regular Marvel Universe were this uncomplicated.
Dark X-Men s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Paul Cornell & Leonard Kirk…
“You killed one of my brain cells.”
“I was curious.”
“Ah. I can understand that, then.”
Possibly, just possibly, my favourite story arc of the entire Dark Reign! Nice to see that after Marvel pulled Cornell’s excellently written but wholly underappreciated CAPTAIN BRITAIN, he’s kept the same comedic style of dark, humorous dialogue which made that book so entertaining. Marvel ought really to let him have a crack at writing Deadpool although I believe he’s now signed up exclusively to write for DC.
Anyway, I read this book with absolutely zero expectations, fully thinking it would be just another churned out, spurious side-bar piece of tosh, particularly after the dull X-Men / Avengers team-up UTOPIA which immediately precedes this. However I found myself chortling throughout, especially at the increasingly ludicrous character intro panels that continue right throughout the book rather than just when a character first appears, many of which are musically themed. And the plot itself is pretty whacky involving Nate ‘X-Man’ Grey taking over Norman Osborn’s mind to escape an initial confrontation with the Dark X-Men (themselves a hilariously dysfunctional team of misfits), prompting the team to telepathically go in after Nate in a bid to rescue Norman. Unfortunately for all of them, they’ve completely forgotten about a certain brightly coloured individual Norman’s already keeping precariously restrained inside his head…
Spider-Man: Fever (£10-99, Marvel) by Brendan McCarthy.
“Well? Is it a man or is it a spider? Shaman, let the Tarot of the Tarantulas decide.”
“I draw the Eight of Legs.”
“Very well. Longlegs, take him to the Insect gate.”
I wonder what else is in that tarot deck. The Seven of Sadistic Child? The Six of Actually An Ant?
Arachnophobes are going to want to steer well clear of this one. The look and feel of this is unmistakably Steve Ditko not just in its Dr. Strange elements, but in Spider-Man’s eyes as copied in the original animated series. And if you don’t know McCarthy from ROGAN GOSH etc., then you’re in for a trip! I think he uses the word ‘necrodelia’ somewhere.
Things are not right: omens abound like the Daily Bugle headline “FERAL CATS EAT CHURCH LADY WHO FED THEM”. In fact it’s the animal kingdom in particular which is out of sorts as The Vulture swoops from the sky and a powerful Webwaze energy-stream crackles from a booby trapped book delivered to Dr. Strange, Sorcerer Supreme.
“The Webwaze snakes up inside the buildings, into the nervous system of the city. Upwards it crawls, inside cramped drainpipes full of gurgling human rain. Up through the crockery-crammed sinks and toilets piled upon toilets that reach into the clouds… Down with the rain it falls, into the dark drains and sewers. Down past Driddil and far beyond Dormammu, the Webwaze has its source.”
And in the middle of that nightmare web, the Arachnix spider-demon cackles and moves towards its prey: the Soul Sushi that is Spider-Man, currently comatose in Dr. Strange’s bath.
That’s the kind of crazy you’re in for with lots of lime green, tangerine, purple and turquoise. Lurid? I should bloody well hope so! If the Astral Plane is more mundane then you might as well stop in Mansfield. The sound effects composed of good old-fashioned, hand-crafted lettering, swirl around the page as our Spider is sent on a quest to catch a fly, the winds whispering as he crunch, crunch, crunches over a killing field of dead insects. That’s the sort of language used too: full-bodied, dark-and-stormy night, but not without a sense of humour for Dr. Strange is renowned for his gobbledegook.
“Looks like an old spare-snare, a sigil-powered trap. The instruction embedded in the sigil can usually be undone by uttering complete nonsense. A simple Number Nine incantation should do the trick. ‘Take this twist, Brother El Dorado — we are standing still.’”
Reminds me a little of Grant Morrison’s DOOM PATROL. Jonathan was bemused by the Arachnix wearing a top hat, but I’m fairly sure I’ve been seeing that image since childhood as part of Afro-Caribbean folklore. Did the trickster Anansi wear a top hat, or was it some other children’s story? Do let me know, scholars.
Dark Avengers: Siege h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Mike Deodato, Chris Bachalo.
The Sentry’s wife has realised the truth: that she married a monster and should have killed him on her wedding night. She thinks she’s finally done it. She’s wrong.
“Lindy, you’re not taking the easy way out of this marriage. I want some more of these theories of yours. They’re hilarious.”
“Please, please let me go! Please!”
“You want out of this? You really want to get away from me? Is that what you want?”
“You’re only still here because he loves you. And he does. And you’ve done nothing but betray him! He told you his deepest, darkest secrets. You see me as the enemy. You’re the enemy! You’re the betrayer. You made a promise, Lindy. You’re a liar.”
“Please just let me go. Just kill me.”
“Only because you were polite enough to beg me.”
We always knew the Sentry had a split personality, but until recently Norman Osborn had kept him under control with some expert psychology. After all, it takes one to know one. But now The Sentry is about to fracture completely, and so is Osborn, having declared war on Asgard.
Most of this essential context for SIEGE takes place prior to that book (but read SIEGE first – it’s all about hindsight), whilst the final issue deals with its fall out and the repercussions for each and every one of them, some of which you will never predict. In the meantime you’ll see most of the other murderous malcontents go about their daily sex lives (all in the pursuit of power) and Bullseye disguised as Hawkeye makes a move that halted me completely.
And that’s it for the DARK AVENGERS. You’ll understand why by the end. It was a tense and sweaty experience with some beltingly good dialogue surrounded by richly coloured, dark and brooding art. What Ellis & Deodato began in THUNDERBOLTS was played out to perfection by Bendis. Next: Bendis on a new series of AVENGERS, and new series of NEW AVENGERS, the AVENGERS: PRIME mini-series, and Brubaker and Deodato on SECRET AVENGERS. Oh, there’s also AVENGERS: CHILDREN’S CRUSADE. Is Wanda back?
New Avengers: Siege h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen, Daniel Acuna, Mike McKone, Bryan Hitch, Mike Mayhew, Marko Djurdjevic.
Massive conclusion to the current series, otherwise known as NEW AVENGERS vol 13, and Bendis’ entire storyline begun in AVENGERS: DISASSEMBLED. It will not disappoint.
Clint Barton is pissed. I don’t mean drunk, I mean furious. He’s seen Bullseye usurp his identity as Hawkeye in Norman Osborn’s DARK AVENGERS, he’s spent the whole of his post-resurrection life on the run from them, and now he’s seen the destruction wrought on San Francisco and its resident X-Men. So when none of his fellow New Avengers can countenance his determination to invade Avengers Tower and take Osborn out for good, he goes it alone. Which works better for Osborn that it does for Barton. He’s tortured by force and mind-raped into revealing his team’s secret location, but you know that game of cat and mouse they’ve been playing for some time now? Well, Normie’s in for a bit of a surprise.
Bendis’ self-discipline here is impressive. The main thrust of the NEW AVENGERS for half its lifetime has been their battle of mixed fortunes with The Hood, Madame Masque and their supervillain cronies. Horrendously outnumbered, it’s taken their all to stay even half a step ahead of the next assault whilst on the run from the law. That’s the guts Bendis sticks to here, well past the SIEGE itself. Because now there’s a difference, see. The Hood only rose to power after CIVIL WAR and SECRET INVASION and all that time the real Avengers have been one man down.
Steve Rogers is back.
Next: Bendis on a new series of AVENGERS, and new series of NEW AVENGERS, the AVENGERS: PRIME mini-series, and Brubaker and Deodato on SECRET AVENGERS. Oh, there’s also AVENGERS: CHILDREN’S CRUSADE. Is Wanda back too?
Mighty Avengers: Siege h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Dan Slott & Khoi Pham, Neil Edwards.
Little strict relevance to SIEGE itself on account of none of those participating in it here actually appear in Bendis’ version. Regardless, they’re participating in it without any leadership from their leader, Hank Pym, who flat-out refuses to answer the call to Assemble. Instead he and Jocasta become trapped in Pym-Space with yet another incarnation of their world’s worst cybernetic son. I did take a brief gander, and there were moments of genuine “uh-oh” and a right old tease when one was given hope for the dearly departed Janet van Dyne. But I’m afraid, like the rest of this sorry series post-Bendis, it really didn’t do it for me.
Invincible Iron Man vol 5: Stark Resilient book 1 h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction.
Post-SIEGE, Tony Stark is broke. He has no money, no company, no resources at all except his brain. He uses it.
Fraction uses his own too, and so far it’s been my favourite chapter of Matt Fraction’s run as Stark negotiates with those that do have money, skills and key resources to persuade them to join his fledgling Stark Resilient and build a better future with limitless, free and environmentally neutral world energy based on his Repulsor technology. Some he respects and others he threatens with the prospect of being obsolete when the technology rolls: get in now or lose out forever. Their first project? A car, of course! Also, former P.A. and battle axe Mrs. Arbogast is back from the early 1980s’ run, she’s far more savvy and her first name is Bambi!
Stark’s well aware that it’s not going to be straightforward. His once-purged memory may be back, but there are holes there: gaps between the time he last backed-up his brain (always back up!) and then needed to download it. There’s distrust and resentment about what he did as head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and half the time he can’t even remember what he did. Meanwhile the Hammer Girls, daughter and granddaughter of Justin Hammer (see IRON MAN: DEMON IN A BOTTLE) spy a vacuum in the arms market which Start is eschewing and they have battle suits of their own. But you wait until they pull their most ingenious move next volume, when they persuade dozens of unsuspecting gamers to pilot weaponised drones whilst convinced they’re all merely playing the latest handheld computer game on their mobiles. Finally, inevitably, it’s time for another meeting with Thor. Will it be any more amicable than the last?
Splendid art from Larroca who, over the past six or seven years, has gone from gauche to gorgeous, his faces full of subtle shifts in expression, his battle armour absolutely stunning. Extra design work in the back.
Spider-Man: The Gauntlet vol 5 – Lizard h/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells with Fred Van Lente & Chris Bachalo, Jefte Palo, Xurxo Penalta.
Chris Bachalo’s pages on this decidedly tense and sweaty chapter of cold-blooded horror were glorious – truly glorious – and the writing was bravely different for a regular, mid-quality Marvel comic. For Dr. Curt Connors, who transforms under stress into the bi-pedal Lizard, is not the antagonist here but the victim. He’s the victim of atrociously bad management, zero ethics, and the reptilian hive-mind biding its time, waiting to consume him whole. The other victim is his son, and there is indeed a moment of “What the %&*£?!?!”
The problem is that you should never ask Bachalo to illustrate a comic on such a tight schedule - one that demands a new episode almost every week without room for manoeuvre. Because the fill-in art in the middle of several issues here at key moments of the storyline was so comparatively feeble that it jarred. It disappointed. It wouldn’t have been quite so bad had this whole story not been built on its pressure-cooker tension because the second Bachalo leaves the stage then it goes off the boil not to simmer but to bob limply on until he returns. Nice try, wasted opportunity. Still, Bachalo’s lizards are magnificent!
Daredevil: Ultimate Collection vol 2 (£25-99. Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev.
Reprints volumes 6, 7, 9 and 10 (volume 8 wasn’t by Bendis and had nothing to do with his storyline.)
Riveting stuff that has little to do with spandex. Its power lies in the courtroom, the precinct, the lawyers’ office and Matt’s bed. And readers of 100 BULLETS, PREACHER and what-not should all be throwing themselves across our counter to beat each other to buy these Bendis books as well as his ALIAS series and, if necessary, beat on each other to be served first. Because if the plot, the pacing and the dialogue weren’t enough, Maleev and colourist Matt Hollingsworth provide some gripping urban visuals with their rough shades of texture and light which will send you scouring their shadows for further detail or clues, just like Alex’s haggard and brittle Ben Urich peering wearily – and vulnerably – over his glasses. It also features the best rain ever in comics. I’ve seen some seriously beautiful rain, from Frank Miller’s in the first SIN CITY graphic novel to Will Eisner in almost everything he did. This, however, boasts the finest rain of all in a torrential downpour that almost streams off the pages and will have you towelling yourselves down, as a blind lawyer with a walking stick takes on several hundred ninja single-handedly, having had a complete mental breakdown and declared himself the new Kingpin of crime.
So, here’s where we are with our blind, beleaguered lawyer and nocturnal vigilante Matt Murdock: a criminal who crippled the Kingpin from within has used his knowledge that Murdock is Daredevil to bargain with the FBI. The FBI wanted to sit on the news, but one of their own sold it out to a paper. Now Matt’s denying the story for fear of being done for perjury, and suing the paper that’s outed him in a cornered act of bravado which – let’s remember – landed Oscar Wilde in prison. His alter ego’s activities on the rooftops are constantly being scrutinised by the press; one of his two bodyguards, Luke Cage, is so disgusted that Murdock is lying in his legal battle that’s he’s up and given notice; a blind girl whose life he’s saved knows for certain who he is, the Owl’s entourage have rigged the criminal’s lair in an attempt to catch the man out, and the publisher who’s striving to prove his paper was right on the nail all along has just been murdered in his swimming pool. Who’s the prime suspect? That’d be Murdock, naturally.
In addition this book sees the return of psycho-pyro-bitch Typhoid Mary, girlfriend-slaughtering Bullseye (two so far and counting), former girlfriend Natasha a.k.a. the Black Widow, plus the big man himself, Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk:
“Effective immediately I am retaking control of my territories. I am back in the business. The terms remain as before my absence… but the punishment for disobedience will be much more severe and handled more swiftly. I want to make it perfectly clear that your behaviour in my absence was disgusting. Payments for moneys past due will be expected shortly.”
“Mr. Fisk, you – you – you have to understand we were left without leadership, with – without answers, without -”
“Are you under the impression that we are having a conversation?”"
“This drug — MGH — This cheap genetic piece of crap that the Owl was trying to peddle for quick cash, in lieu of actual vision and leadership, is off limits. It’s off the street. It’s stupid and it’s gone. Genetic mutation drugs are incredibly bad for business. Clearly I don’t have to explain how you’re making your customers into potential problems. Anyone caught dealing it will disappear. Details on the rest of my new arrangements will be made shortly. Now get out of my sight.”
“Okay, all right, I’ll be the one. Hey — sit. Everyone just chill. Fisk, you’re insane and one of us is going to kill you in your sleep before the weekend is over. You’re a lunatic for even trying this. You’re absolutely — you’re just insane. You cannot bully your way back in. It’s over for you. You had your shot and your wife sold you out. And, hey, sure, maybe you’d been a little more forthcoming with us in your salad days, we might be inclined to set you up with a little something for old time’s sake… But as it stands… Live like a $%#$££, die like a $%#$££. You had the entire city. You had Daredevil half in your pocket, and you screwed it up. The arrogance of you!! We’re supposed to cower in fear because you whacked half a dozen low-level jackos. They were garbage. Easy targets. I’m telling you: man-to-man. Out of courtesy because of all the money we made on that thing that time… Get out of the country tonight or by Sunday one or all of us are going to have you whacked. Okay?”
<Boop boop boop boop boop>
“Chinatown. Do it.”
“I just ordered the rape and murder of your wife, Ming. Anyone else have a grandstand in them?”
Supreme Power vol 2: Powers & Principalities new edition (£14-99, Marvel) by J. Michael Straczynski & Gary Frank.
“Reporters can be bribed, intimidated, or if need be… removed. That, not exposure, should have been your first response to the problem.”
America’s best kept secret was the existence of a young man they named Mark. He arrived in an alien pod as a baby, and was found by a local couple who brought him home to live with them… for all of five seconds. Since then he’s been brought up by the US government in seclusion, by surrogate parents he believed were his own, to be the model American citizen and the ultimate weapon to their cause. Now their secret’s out, but they have a contingency plan. Mark is used as a distraction, rescuing people from fires on national television while a soldier fused to a whispering crystal from that self-same pod carries out covert operations all over the globe.
“If he’s here, on camera, he couldn’t be in the Arctic Sea at the same moment that a Russian nuclear sub we wanted to take a look at vanished under mysterious circumstances. Or when Bolivian anti-government squads are wiped out in the middle of the night without a trace except for the gratitude of the Bolivian government.”
Very good. But America’s best kept secret wasn’t the existence of Mark. America’s best kept secret was that they were manipulating Mark. And now he’s found out…
Meanwhile, every night, for two thousand years, a votive offering of fruit and bread has been laid in the ancient hidden chamber dedicated to a supposed princess. The tradition has been passed down for generation after generation. But something is stirring, as above so below, and the world of men will not know what’s hit it.
By the way, the military haven’t been content to indoctrinate Mark, attempt to kill him, or create their own super-soldier by using the crystal they found in that pod. Oh, no, they’ve used the DNA found there to see if they can’t splice it with humans’. Expendable humans – those serving life sentences for murder and rape. They wanted the grafts to take. They really wanted the grafts to take and they did indeed take.
They really didn’t want those grafts to take…
All this and more as the series really starts hitting its political stride, helped in no small part by Gary Frank, an artist on a par with Cassady and Hitch. His underwater female mutation is gorgeously designed, and very, very sad.
Husk h/c (£14-99, Soleil/Marvel) by Frederic L’Homme & Arnaud Boudoiron.
Iron Man, basically. Armoured exoskeletons achieving sentience or something. I’m afraid I only lasted six pages. Overwritten and, being shrunk from the original, European, album-sized book, difficult to read in any case.
Marvel Masterworks: Fantastic Four vol 4 (£18-99, Marvel) by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby.
“Fools! It is I, Madam Medusa, who has trapped you! Of what use are your clumsy guns and fists against my unconquerable hair!”
I should point that the Inhumans’ Medusa is no Gorgon – nor is their Gorgon for that matter – and that her hair is merely prehensile rather than a hissing nest of snakes. Nevertheless that’s good enough for the Frightful Four to enlist her aid in invading the Baxter Building, wisely waiting for the Avengers and X-Men to leave the engagement party. Yes, Sue and Reed have announced their plans to be married! Sue to the Submariner, and Reed to his work. No, no, to each other for now. There’s also an early origin of Victor Von Doom Esq., Daredevil, Dragonman, Diablo, Rama Tut (a.k.a. Kang The Conqueror a.k.a. Immortus), the Mole Man, some Skrulls and the Submariner himself as Reed uses his Subionic Analysis Structure-Scope (the man has SASS) to subionically analyse the structure of a deep-sea creature washed ashore long with Namor’s beloved Lady Dorma.
Eleven more issues from the swinging sixties then, complete with the occasional piece of whacky photography illustrating the ocean’s depths, the far reaches of space, or Mr. Fantastic’s banks of weird and wonderful scientific doo-dads built from things that are grey.
Dr. Horrible And Other Horrible Stories (£7-50, Dark Horse) by Zack Whedon & Eric Canete, Farel Dalrymple, Jim Rugg, Joelle Jones, Scott Hepburn…
Based on the Whedon brothers’ (Joss, Zack and Jed) multiple award winning 2008 hit, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, described as a musical tragicomedy miniseries in three acts. If memory serves, the brothers distributed Dr. Horrible via the internet to circumvent, and make a point about, what was going on during the 2008 American Guild writers’ strike. It tells the story of our eponymous hero Dr. Horrible, his nemesis and aspiring supervillain Captain Hammer, and Penny the girl at the laundromat, who just happens to be their mutual love interest helping to ensure the good Doctor and Captain are never going to be the best of friends. Oh yes, it also featured Neil Patrick Harris, probably better known to those of us of a certain age as Doogie Howser M.D., in the titular role. The show itself was actually rather funny, especially the songs which were all written by professional composer Jed Whedon.
Can I just confess when I first wrote this review I accidentally labelled Jed Whedon as a professional composter which conjures up some odd images, and is probably something that those who loathe Buffy et al have accused his brother Joss of being, albeit in rather less polite terms, but happily I did spot the error upon proofing. Unfortunately this comic, loosely based on the show, whilst being entertaining, doesn’t come anywhere close to capturing the truly bonkers feel of the show. One for Whedon completists, possibly.
Heart Of Darkness (£12-99, Self-Made Hero) by Joseph Conrad, adapted by David Zane Mairowitz & Catherine Anyango.
“The horror! The horror!”
Those were the final words of the enigmatic Mr. Kurtz, elusive golden boy of the ivory trading Company which hired Marlow some years ago to track down Kurtz, who’d managed to get himself well and truly lost up the Congo. Spiritually speaking.
Conrad’s Heart Of Darkness was one of the first novels of the 20th Century, although at fewer than one hundred pages long it’s actually more of a novella. Conrad himself was a Polish seafarer who, like Marlow, had spent six years out in the open seas of the East as First Mate then Captain of a ship before satisfying a childhood promise to explore what had in his youth been a relatively unmapped chunk of Africa. And, again like Marlow, Conrad was in for a brutal awakening. For by then the high ideals of exploration had turned into unrestrained exploitation, “a rapacious and pitiless folly”, pillaging the Congo of its ivory in the name of King Leopold II of Belgium and subjugating its so-called savage inhabitants with a barbarity which Conrad himself called “the vilest scramble for loot that ever disfigured the history of human conscience and geographical exploration” (‘Geography And Some Explorers’).
I was given the book in 1985 by a school friend called Ian Marshall, a substantial cultural influence for whom I’ve always been enormously grateful, and the triumph of its language, and the imperialist horrors and inner conflicts it evoked, blew me away. Here’s a passage in which Marlow, on the verge of discovering Mr. Kurtz, the consummate colonialist and the quintessential embodiment of white benefaction, surrounded by severed black heads on stakes. (Entrusted with writing a report for the International Society For The Suppression Of Savage Customs, Kurtz fills it with the all the usual condescending claptrap about being “a power for good practically unbounded” before more animatedly scrawling “Exterminate all the brutes!”) The steamboat that Marlow is captaining is crewed by cannibals whose rotting hippo meat has long since been jettisoned overboard. They’re hungry, they outnumber the Company members and they are cannibals…
“Yes: I looked at them as you would on any human being, with a curiosity of their impulses, motives, capacities, weaknesses, when brought to the test of an inexorable physical necessity. Restraint! What possible restraint? Was it superstition, disgust, patience, fear – or some kind of primitive honour? No fear can stand up to hunger, no patience can wear it out, disgust simply does not exist where hunger is: and as to superstition, beliefs, and what you might call principles, they are less than chaff in the breeze.”
It’s possibly the only example of self-restraint in the book – other than Marlow’s final, kind lie to Kurtz’s deluded widow – and it is displayed in the face of gnawing hunger rather than the rapacious lust for materialistic wealth, no matter the subsequent suffering.
So what of its treatment as a graphic novel? Well, yes, Anyango has captured both the pervading gloom and the overwhelming inertia that is so surprising for what is essentially a journey. She’s also captured a little of the vagueness, things glimpsed through mist or darkness, and I loved some of the tortured textures. As sequential art, however, it’s often awkward and, for such a short work, astonishingly repetitive, jerking us back out of the jungle to the boat of the Thames from which Marlow is recalling his experiences for yet another unnecessary, horizon-backed profile. So many pages have been squandered by both Anyango and Mairowitz which could have been used to embrace more of the language so importantly steeped in stupor. Insanely Mairowitz even chooses to incorporate Conrad’s private journal into work at the expense of yet more of the novella whose careful clauses have been disfigured by ellipses in order to join them to others.
The lettering, by the way, is atrocious, but the worst crime of all is the mystifying mistake of peppering pages with thought bubbles, totally incongruous and an insult to our intelligence, reducing each page they mar to a child’s pre-school drawing. Anyango didn’t deserve that, and neither does Conrad. It is essentially that old error, so prevalent amongst publishers post-WATCHMEN, of hiring a writer who is devoid of instinct for the skill of sequential art. As I said, the horror.
Heart Of Darkness
cheers to alec part six (of six)
Alec: The Years Have Pants (A Life-Sized Omnibus) (£25-99 s/c, £37-99 h/c, Top Shelf) by Eddie Campbell.
By far the single finest body of work in comics anywhere in the world to date.
“Who said ‘Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion’?
“Whoever it was, in my opinion we should take him out behind the trees and beat the shit out of him!”
So that’s me in the orchard with a bloody nose, then.
640 autobiographical pages of wit and wisdom from every discerning creator’s favourite comicbook creator. When Neil Gaiman signed here, the very first thing he did was ask to see the latest Eddie Campbell comic. That was his version of a rider! Far broader in scope than any other autobiographical comic, it’s not just about Eddie, it’s not just about Eddie’s family, it’s about the very experience of living.
Collecting all of Eddie’s previous ALEC books including HOW TO BE AN ARTIST, the material has been rearranged into a sweeping tapestry of love, lust, and drunken misdemeanours; ambitions, self-doubt and self-deprecation; parental responsibilities, parental irresponsibility and marital exasperation*; wine and travel, professional strife and a potted history of the UK comic scene. There’s actually very little that Eddie doesn’t find or make fascinating as he transforms his peculiar experiences into art for our entertainment, observing human behaviour in all its funny foibles and cogitating on its wider implications. ‘The Years Have Pants’ is a brand new concluding chapter whilst other previously unpublished, reworked episodes have been slotted in along with more fresh pieces in which he returns to his pen and ink style complete with the old zip-a-tone.
Glorious draughtsmanship right from the word go, and if I were to take one body of work with me to a desert island in any medium at all, it would be this. I would never outlast the pleasure it would give me.
* Five of the funniest new pages involve a day out with his son Callum, during which they discover a Star Trek communicator and manage to get themselves arrested. Sagely they conspire to keep that part of their trip from Mum – until Eddie slips up, of course, at which point it’s “Beam me up, Scottie!
Fragments and “The Years Have Pants”
The above is what sits on our website right now and whilst it’s a ringing endorsement, re-reading it now only confirms my belief at the time that it was inadequate; that this great big beautiful brick of a book deserved to savoured, month by month, strata by strata, in order to communicate the depth of the art and celebrate the breadth of a life plundered for your entertainment. The man’s not done yet; one hopes he’s barely begun. THE LOVELY HORRIBLE STUFF is on the horizon, and I thank the Lord that Eddie’s two-volume BACCHUS OMNIBUS (not autobiography, but the modern adventures of the Greek demi-god) was delayed long enough for me to give this work the focus it deserves.
‘Fragments’ begins with a condensed reprint of the first three chapters of ‘The History Of Humour’ which originally appeared in Eddie’s short-lived EGOMANIA comic, and started at the bottom – the human bottom, used to make arses out of politicians, kings and countries and mined for humour everywhere including The Miller’s Tale by Chaucer. Eddie traces traditions like April Fool’s Day back to the shift of the calendar’s New Year from April 1st to January 1st, the fools being those who refused to join in. Like accountants. Also, the Mardi Gras back to the Feast of Fools, and the Saturnalia to a merging of the Egyptians’ rebirth of the sun festivities and the Persian Sacaea whereby roles were reversed, kings were made out of commoners then summarily executed in their stead. The staggering ambition was so easily matched by the knowledge and research behind it that it’s painful to know that the project will never be revisited: a book sitting half-in, half-out of Lucien’s Library of things never written, unlike Eddie’s blogging project which unfortunately has its own index card. In retrospect it’s easy to the see the origins of FATE OF THE ARTIST in ‘I Have Lost My Sense Of Humour’, originally published in Dark Horse’s AUTOBIOGRAPHIX anthology, in which Campbell recoils from the exposure the From Hell film gave to him, his work, and therefore the life he’d put in it. It is, of course, very funny.
‘The Years Have Pants’ aren’t the first new pages in the ALEC OMNIBUS, there are some previously unpublished pieces scattered throughout, but they are all freshly composed and from 2008. They’re anecdotes recalled from the last three decades, so reprising some characters who’ve cropped up before, and character traits by now familiar. ‘The Shoebox Of Broken Dreams’ is the name assigned by Eddie’s son Callum to a very real shoebox full of treasured mementoes now bust:
“Here’s a clay Spider-Man that Cal made and painted for me when I was away for six weeks. I broke it while I was photographing it in case it ever got broken.”
One shouldn’t laugh lest one tread upon dreams, but one of Eddie’s most impressive instincts / skills is for comedy at the heart of even the most poignant moments.
One effect of the book in its entirety is to make any reader envious of the wondrously bizarre nature of the Campbell household, and these short stories are no exception: tampons flung against walls, a cordless phone charged only with the aid of a sock, and the doorknob that needs turning to open the door, then extracting to use on the other side should you not want to lock yourself out. Then there’s the story originally recounted on Eddie’s online Journal:
“My wife, Anne, has lately added a new word to the English lexicon.
“Caught on the phone during dinner, she yessed her way through a conversation while mentally rehearsing her exit line. ‘Thanks for ringing’ – ‘thanks for phoning’, and when she found a break it came out as ‘Okay – thanks for roning.’
“In our house this is now the standard was of answering a call that’s surplus to requirements. ‘Oy! Where do you think you’re going? You haven’t scooped the dogshit our of the yard.’ ‘Yes, Dad. Thanking for roning.’
“In the old days, I’d have made a one-page ‘Alec’ out of this, but today we squander our narratives on a blog.”
So there we go and isn’t it, as my mother would say.
It’s been quite the recollection: over fifty years and 640 pages of Alec MacGarry.
No one could have suspected so many years ago that autobiography would now form such a robust part of comics and take up so much room on our shelves. Our gratitude for such pioneering foresight, in hindsight, should be limitless. Unfortunately my cat just wants feeding.
Cheers, then, to Eddie Campbell: exceptional artist, effortless humorist, hopeless liability, and the finest raconteur in comics.
art books, prose etc.
Blood Waters (£7-99, Flambard) by Chaz Brenchley.
“Oil and water, blood and time: some things never mix. In time, blood will always rise. Soak a thing in blood enough, and doesn’t matter how deep you bury it in the earth or in the past. Give it time enough and up it comes, wet and rank and telling.”
Rare is the prose stocked by Page 45 that has nothing to do with comics. Nor is this an exception, for you may have seen the cover to this nerve-frazzling, wince-inducing crime anthology in the pages of Bryan Talbot’s ALICE IN SUNDERLAND. These are the stories which Chaz Brenchley either fed into or took out of the Sunderland Riverside Sculpture Trail which he co-created with sculptor Colin Wilbourn and on which the pair elucidate in a sequence of ALICE IN SUNDERLAND I found so compelling that I just had to walk the Trail myself.
There’s a trompe l’oeuil or two, a three-dimensional piece of sequential art in which a cormorant spreads its wings then takes flight off a jetty, a telescope that used to stare out to sea (Ah, but did it really? There are two ends to a telescope. “Sometimes we see more clearly when we turn our backs.”) although the trees in front of it have since grown tall enough to obscure the horizon, making a curious folly of it; but most impressively there’s a sandstone sculpture of a house in ruins, a crime scene which Brenchley analyses in forensic detail:
“There’s a coat. First thing you see, you walk in the door and there’s a coat. Someone left in a hurry perhaps; left the door open, didn’t take their coat. Never mind the weather, worry would keep them warm.”
“… There’s a letter half-burned among the coals in the grate, and another half-written on the table. There’s a vase of flowers spilt, and water dripping. Above all there’s a sense of things interrupted, things not finished. Like a life, perhaps, a life not finished but over none the less.”
All these objects are there on the Trail for you to decrypt yourself (give or take an act of mindless vandalism which is only apposite when you think about it – I don’t think they were the killers covering their tracks) because in that instance the story was written by Chaz for Colin to illustrate. In another, however, one of Brenchley’s victims finds herself stumbling upon the sculpture as a very real and physical object in situ.
Every story comes with its own fully realised narrator’s voice which filled me with dread, just waiting for the individual in question to reveal the extent of their twisted deviance and, by extention, the author’s. It’s substantial, by the way, and I’m glad the writer lives a very long way away from me. There are cold, calculating manipulators, often young and with a sociopathic callousness towards those who should be friends, ticking time bombs of possessiveness, the most creatively fought custody battle I’ve encountered, and the corruption of photography to pornography along with that male model’s innocence. And just when you think the plot can’t thicken further, Chaz throws in another layer of deviousness or pulls the rug from under you after pages of careful deflection which you’ll want to go back and reread.
There’s also a subtle shift in language between each tale so that where appropriate you subconsciously know you’re cast back in time. In fact, I’m put in mind of Alan Moore’s VOICE OF THE FIRE both in terms of the temporal shifts, the linguistic dexterity, and because each of these tales necessarily takes place in a single location: Sunderland. Nor was I exaggerating when I declared that Brenchley had outwritten Neil Gaiman in my recent review of the HELLBOUND HEARTS anthology; no mean feat, I think you’ll agree.
As a Rosetta Stone to the Riverside sculptures, BLOOD WATERS is a revelation and a half that will add enormously to your enjoyment of ALICE. As murder mysteries in their own right they are insanely inventive, blindingly horrific and mesmerisingly told. Regardless, I can assure you that Chaz Brenchley is one sick puppy.
“What goes around, comes around.”
You better believe it.
You can see the Sculpture Trail on our website gallery here: LINK
Understanding Comics (£14-99, I Can’t Tell From Home) by Scott McCloud.
Since Page 45 took its name from this book’s 45th page, it seemed a bit odd that it didn’t yet have a review on our website. But then (obviously) it came out before we had even opened!
It remains one of the finest essays on the comicbook medium and since it’s a graphic novel in its own right, it’s beautifully self-demonstrative; if Shakespeare’s critics had been half so entertaining I might have secured a better degree. It’s witty, it plays with your preconceptions, and it’s actually a pretty vital book for those exploring communication in any medium.
Referenced, for example, by Bryan Talbot in ALICE IN SUNDERLAND (the venerable Scott materialises right in front of a feverish Bryan), it sets the medium in its historical context, explores the wealth of material produced by William Hogarth to Los Bros Hernandez, and begins to dissect the mechanics of the craft, giving us a vocabulary with which to discuss it. Obviously Scott delves deeper in the more recent MAKING COMICS, and it’s not without critics, but without this book they might not have found the words with which to criticise it in the first place. Above all, it will make you think.
Five gazillion other endorsements comes from the likes of Art Spiegelman, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore, Will Eisner and Warren Ellis.
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Love And Rockets: New Stories #3 (£10-99, Fantagraphics) by The Hernandez Brothers
Harvey: How I Became Invisible h/c (£14-99, Groundwood) by Herve Bouchard & Janice Nadeau
Sherlock Holmes: The Sign Of The Four (£14-99, Self Made Hero) by Conan Doyle, Ian Edginton & Ian Culbard
Modern Warfare 2: Ghost (£13-50, Wildstorm) by David Lapham & Kevin West
Spleenal h/c (£18-99, Blank Slate) by Nigel Auchterlounie
Fingerprints h/c (£10-99, Top Shelf) by Will Dinski
Sparky O’Hare (£4-99, Blank Slate) by Mawil
The Marvelous Land Of Oz h/c (£22-50, Marvel) by L. Frank Baum, Eric Shanower & Skottie Young
Dawn vol 3: Three Tiers (£12-99, Image) by Michael Linsner
Spider-Man: The Gauntlet vol 2: Rhino & Mysterio s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Joe Kelly, Dan Slott, Fred Van Lente & Max Fiumara, Marcos Martin, Javier Pulido, Michael Lark
Wolverine: The Reckoning h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Daniel Way, Marjorie Liu & Scot Eaton, Will Conrad, Stephen Segovia, Mirco Piefederici
Deadpool: Merc With A Mouth: Head Trip h/c(£29-99, Marvel) by Victor Gischler & Bong Dazo with Kyle Baker, Rob Liefeld, Das Pastoras, Matteo Scalera
Halo Uprising s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev
Hack/Slash Omnibus vol 2(£25-99, Image) by Tim Seeley & Emily Stone, Fernando Pinto, Rebekah Isaacs, Tim Seeley
Spawn Origins vol 7 (£10-99, Image) by Todd McFarlane & Greg Capullo, Tony Daniel
The Metabarons vol 3: Steelhead & Dona Vicenta (£10-99, Humanoids) by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Juan Gimenez
Mice Templar vol 2: Destiny Part 2 h/c (£22-50, Image) by Brian J.L. Glass, Michael Avon Oeming & Michael Avon Oeming, Victor Santos, Veronica Gandini
Captain America: Reborn s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Ed Brubaker & Bryan Hitch
Marvel Zombies Return s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by Fred Van Lente, David Wellington, Jonathan Maberry, Seth Grahame-Smith & Nick Dragotta, Andrew Mutti, Jason Shawn Alexander, Richard Elson, Wellinton Alves
The Chronicles Of Kull vol 3 (£13-99, Dark Horse) by Don Glutt, Roy Thomas, Barry Windsor-Smith, Steve Englehart & Ernie Chan, Rick Hoberg, Yong Montano, Dino Castrillo, Rudy Nebres, Ricardo Villamonte, John Buscema, Sal Buscema, John Severin, Howard Chaykin
Comic Book Tattoo, Special Edition Slipcased Hardcover (£49-99, Image) by Tori Amos, Rantz A. Hoseley and featuring scripting and art from David Mack, Josh Hechinger, Matthew Humphreys, Jonathan Tsuei, Eric Canete, Jason Horn, Dean Trippe, Sara Ryan, Jonathan Case, Rantz A. Hoseley, James Stokoe, Tristan Crane, Atticus Wolrab, Kako, Nikki Cook, Drew Bell, Kevin Mellon, Jeff Carroll, Mike May, Jeremy Haun, Amber Stone, Leif Jones, Elizabeth Genco, Carla Speed Mcneil, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Andy Macdonald, Nick Filardi, Cat Mihos, Andre Szymanowicz, Gabe Bautista, C.B. Cebulksi, Ethan Young, Joey Weltjens, Lee Duhig, Omaha Perez, Irma Page, Mark Buckingham, Rantz A. Hoseley, Ming Doyle, Mike Maihack, John Ney Reiber, Ryan Kelly, Alice Hunt, Trudy Cooper, Jonathan Hickman, Matthew S. Armstrong, Neil Kleid, Christopher Mitten, Kristyn Ferretti, Stephanie Leong, Sonia Leong, Peov, Kelly Sue Deconnick, Laurenn Mccubbin, John Bivens, Hope Larson, Emma Vieceli, Faye Yong, Chris Arrant, Star St.Germain, Mike Dringenberg, Paul Maybury, Jim Bricker, Craig Taillefer, Dame Darcy, G. Willow Wilson, Steve Sampson, Neal Shaffer, Daniel Krall, Adisakdi Tantimedh, Ken Meyer Jr., Mark Sable, Salgood Sam, Tom Williams, James Owen, Seth Peck, Daniel Heard, Ivan Brandon, Callum Alexander Watt, Leah Moore, John Reppion, Pia Guerra, Mark Sweeney, Kristyn Ferretti, Jessica Staley, Shane White, Ted McKeever, Chris Chuckry, Jimmie Robinson, Lea Hernandez Derek Mcculloch, Colleen Doran, Jason Hanley
Peanuts, Complete: vol 14 1977-1978 (£21-99, Fantagraphics) by Charles Schultz
The Incredible Hercules: Assault On New Olympus s/c (£10-99, Marvel) by Greg Pak, Fred Van Lente & Rodney Buchemi
New Mutants vol 2: Necrosha s/c (£12-99, Marvel) by Zeb Wells, Kieron Gillen & Diogenes Neves, Paul Davidson, Niko Henrichon, Kevin Sharpe, David Lopez, Ibraim Roberson
Superman: New Krypton vol 2 s/c (£13-50, DC) by Geoff Johns, Sterling Gates, James Robinson & Pete Woods, Renato Guedes, Jamal Igle
Farscape vol 1: The Beginning Of The End Of The Beginning s/c (£7-50, Boom!) by Rockne S. O’Bannon & Keith R.A. Decandido
Angel: Barbary Coast (£10-99, IDW) by David Tischman & Franco Urru
Marvels h/c (£18-99, Marvel) by Kurt Busiek & Alex Ross
Red Robin: Collision (£14-99, DC) by Chris Yost & Marcus To
Batman: Cacophony s/c (£10-99, DC) by Kevin Smith & Walt Flanagan
Invincible vol 13: Growing Pains (£12-99, Image) by Robert Kirkman & Cory Walker
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz s/c (£14-99, Marvel) by L. Frank Baum, Eric Shanower & Skottie Young
A.B.C. Warriors: The Volgan War vol 3 (£14-99, 2000AD) by Pat Mills & Clint Langley
A Drunken Dream And Other Stories h/c (£18-99, Fantagraphics) by Moto Hagio.
Yet another beautifully designed book, its soft cream and tan cover enhanced with a gold-foil title and rose. Impossible to resist.
Inside too it’s noticeable floral but not at all florid, with a love of patterned jumpers, ties and waistcoats and a line which refines itself over the forty years of this woman’s career.
Nature plays an important role, whether in the imagination of young Bianca whose cousin saw her dancing in the forest which absorbed her, killed her, and compelled her cousin to paint portraits of her right into retirement, or the willow tree shifting in seasonal cycles from under which a mother watches her son grown. It’s all she can do, for she’s dead. Death pervades this book, balanced by the lives brought into the world, and if there’s another theme that runs throughout it is childhood, parenting and the relationships between siblings. Over and over again it’s played out.
In ‘Hashin: Half-God’ two sisters, conjoined twins, are greeted very differently. Yucy is dazzlingly pretty and the centre of attention, but she’s also weak and stupid, whereas Yudy is academically precocious yet withered away to a husk, eyes sunk into their sockets, her scalp thin through alopecia. Unable to generate her own, Yucy leeches the nutrients from Yudy’s body, yet it is Yudy who has to do everything for her: carry her downstairs, wash her in the bath and feed her. Inevitably there is resentment, but when they are separated out of necessity it’s a different matter altogether.
In Iguana Girl, a mother suffers from the ultimate in post-natal stress disorders, and perceives her first child Rika only as an ugly iguana, her second called Mami as a perfectly formed and beautiful little girl. Preferential treatment doesn’t begin to cover it: throughout their lives the mother is blunt in her rejection of Rika, destroying her self-confidence and inevitably impacting on Rika’s self-image. The fact that the tale is wrapped in a sort of fairy tale wherein an Iguana princess asks a sorceress to make her human does nothing to soften the horrendous behaviour of the mother, and Rika’s resilience and wishing to please only makes the whole more upsetting.
Finally – and this may be my favourite in the entire collection – there’s ‘The Child Who Comes Home’. Except that he doesn’t. It’s all in the mind of his mother who, three years after the death of her son, cannot let go, talks to him as if he’s still there and sets portions of food aside on a plate. His older brother isn’t compared unfavourably, although there’s always that risk – the impossibility of competing with a brother made golden in death – but he cannot altogether dismiss the nagging suspicion that his parents would have preferred him dead instead.
Death also haunts Tsugiko in ‘Angel Mimic’, driving her to attempt suicide, while in ‘Girl On Porch With Puppy’ there appear to be no maternal nor paternal instincts at all, just a determination for their child to conform. The punchline to that one may either horrify you and have you laughing out loud. Weirder still, however, is the central, full-colour story of the title, in which a hermaphrodite called Lem, who “manifests as male” on a research centre in space, dreams of visiting a fortune teller as a girl and is told she/he will meet her beloved over and over again, but will die each time at his feet before being able to impart the contents of his/her heart. That very man then appears on the space station to tell Lem that he’s witnessed the same events too, repeatedly, explaining it as a “trauma in spacetime”. And then some of them play themselves out.
You’ll be pleased to hear there’s a little more optimism, acceptance and closure to be gleaned from ’Marie, Ten Years Later’ and ’Autumn Journey’, though less ostensibly so in the former. Both involve regrets, or at least acknowledgements of mistakes. Taichi’s regret is that his art school friendship with Katsumi and Marie was broken when the pair got married and left him behind without even a fond farewell. Also that, ten years later, Katsumi is a famed exhibitor whilst Taichi is an anonymous textile designer and still in love with Marie. But when he receives a phone call out of the blue from Katsumi, he’s shown a note from Marie to himself, written but unsent, that will colour his memories completely.
So yes, I suppose memories too figure prominently in what is a collection of overwhelmingly thoughtful work best read quietly in private without the distractions of commuting or throngs of passers-by. I haven’t read the interview in the back because I didn’t want my own perceptions filtered through it. But Hagio’s certainly not constrained by any thought to genre; each time she simply finds whatever form most suited to her needs, and if this is representative of a forty-year career, let’s hope sales merit publication of what must be an enormous wealth of material yet to be seen over here.
Ax vol 1 (£22-50, Top Shelf) by Osamo Kanno, Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Imiri Sakabashira, Takao Kawasaki, Ayuko Akiyama, Shigehiro Okada, Katsuo Kawai, Nishioka Brosis, Takato Yamamoto, Toranosuke Shimada, Yuka Goto, Mimiyo Tomozawa, Takashi Nemoto, Yusaku Hanakuma, Namie Fujieda, Mitsuhiko Yoshida, Kotobuki Shiriagari, Shinbo Minami, Shinya Komatsu, Einosuke, Yuichi Kiriyama, Saito Yunosuke, Akino Kondo, Tomohiro Koizumi, Shin’ichi Abe, Seiko Erisawa, Shigeyuki Fukumitsu, Kataoka Toyo, Hideyasu Moto, Keizo Miyanishi, Hiroji Tani, Otoya Mitsuhashi, Kazuichi Hanawa…
Doesn’t give much away that title really does it? The subtitle however, THE CUTTING EDGE OF MANGA, does get straight to the sharpened edge of the proverbial object, thus making it no surprise to me that customer Ian Scott, Nottingham Library stalwart and with a taste for the finest reading material, had put himself down for a copy way in advance of its release. That is usually recommendation enough for me to have a closer look, and if that weren’t enough here’s Paul Gravett, who as the author of the excellent MANGA: 60 YEARS OF JAPANESE COMICS! knows a thing or two about this topic too. Clearly Top Shelf agree as they asked him to provide a forward for this anthology.
“AX is the premier Japanese magazine for alternative comics, heir to the legendary Garo. Published bi-monthly since 1998, the pages of AX contain the most innovative, experimental, and personal works in contemporary manga – the flourishing underground of the world’s largest comics industry.”
And he’s right, you know, I haven’t been this entranced by a manga anthology for a very long time, since I picked up something whose name eludes me* on Mark’s recommendation, which featured an outrageously funny strip whereby some very disturbed and oddly drawn youths were patrolling the beach randomly sampling the private parts innocently sunbathing ladies under the auspices of protecting public health, of course. Unsurprisingly it ends up with them being arrested. I mention this purely because I’m pretty sure one of the contributors to this work may well have created that particular strip from the look of the artwork, although I can’t be sure. Anyway, there’s a lot of dark humour in many of these works, along with some very disturbing stories.
So if you think you’re ready for something really different (and you still haven’t picked up THE BOX MAN by Imiri Sakabashira, who definitely does have a short in this work) this really is for you. Forget genre, art style etc. this is all about the content. Yes, it is experimental let’s make no mistake, but in a ‘mad scientist locked in his lab cackling maniacally at the outside world who have absolutely no idea what type of mayhem he’s about to unleash’ type way. But that’s a good thing right?
*Ian Scott actually popped in after I’d written this review to pick his copy of AX up so I mentioned the above, and he immediately told me that the anthology containing the story I was referring to was called SAKE JOCK, which indeed it was. He knows his stuff!
The Legend Of Zelda vol 10: Phantom Of The Hourglass (£5-99, Viz) by Akira Himekawa.
THE LEGEND OF ZELDA is based on the series of computer games starring gutsy young Link wandering around fantastical landscapes like a young, blonde Robin Hood, solving riddles, acquiring items, battling brutes and rescuing the put-upon of the day.
PHANTOM OF THE HOURGLASS is the one I’m most familiar with since my ex-house monkey Ossian Hawkes spent well over a month of his life (and mine) twiddling his thumbs and bashing buttons in front of the lounge TV, propelling our pint-sized protagonist across the ocean waves from island to island - sword, shield and boomerang in hand – avoiding water spouts, combining items and crawling through tunnels in search of The Sand Of Time in order to fill his hourglass and ultimately free his former Captain and love interest Tetra from the elusive, fog-shrouded Ghost Ship. [Note: O has since told me that was Wind Waker instead! Still, while ruin a completely erroneous review, eh?] But Ossian soon discovered that his trusty treasure map had distinct limitations and actually began mapping the massive world for himself in an exercise book which was almost enough to make me play the game afterwards. (I expended 50-odd pages each sketching elements of Riven and Myst to help me navigate, decipher and virtually will my way through those games). Still tempted.
I’ve often wondered why series like these sell so well given that they lack the interactivity of the originals. Maybe it’s the recognition factor, a comicbook comfort blanket, reliving your greatest hits on paper. Or perhaps they’re read as a walkthrough for those playing the games, or a catch-up for those only embarking on the very latest episodes. They certainly won’t take you a month, and will save hours of occasionally fruitless meandering, double-backing and reloads.
Please use our search engine to… Oh, you’ve got the hand of it already!
Gestalt vol 8 (£7-50, Viz) by Yun Kouga
Megaman ZX vol 2 (£9-99, Udon) by Capcom
Ghost Talker’s Daydream vol 4 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Okuse Saki & Meguro Sankichi
Apollo’s Song Part 1 (£8-50, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka
Apollo’s Song Part 2 (£8-50, Vertical) by Osamu Tezuka
Megaman Megamix vol 2 (£9-99, Udon) by Capcom
Negima!? Neo vol 6 (£8-50, Del Rey) by Ken Akamatsu & Takuya Fujima
Library Wars, Love & War vol 2 (£7-50, Viz) by Kiiro Yumi
Twin Spica vol 3 (£8-50, Vertical) by Kou Yaginuma
Air Gear vols 15/16/17 (£16-50, Del Rey) by Oh!Great
Bleach vol 32 (£7-50, Viz) by Tite Kubo
Tegami Bachi – Letter Bee vol 3 (£7-50, Viz) by Hiroyuki Asada
Cactus’s Secret vol 3 (£7-50, Viz) by Nana Haruta
Shaman King vol 30 (£7-50, Viz) by Hiroyuki Takei
Gantz vol 12 (£9.99, Dark Horse) by Hiroya Oku
Chi’s Sweet Home vol 2 (£10-50, Vertical) by Konami Kanata
NGE: Campus Apocalypse vol 1 (£8-50, Dark Horse) by Mingming
Return To Labyrinth vol 1 (£7-99, Tokyopop) by Jake T. Forbes & Chris Lie
Return To Labyrinth vol 3 (£9-99, Tokyopop) by Jake T. Forbes & Chris Lie
House Of Five Leaves vol 1 (£9-99, Viz) by Natsume Ono
Koko Be Good (£13-99, First Second) by Jen Wang
Dogs – Bullets & Carnage vol 4(£9-99, Viz) by Shirow Miwa
Detroit Metal City vol 6 (£9-99, Viz) by Kiminori Wakasugi
Peepochoo vol 2 (£9-99, Vertical Inc.) by Felipe Smith
Empowered vol 6 (£11-99, Dark Horse) by Adam Warren
Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service vol 11 (£8-99, Dark Horse) by Eiji Otsuka & Housi Yamazaki
Berserk vol 34 (£10-99, Dark Horse) by Kentaro Miura
Hayate Combat Butler vol 16(£7-50, Viz) by Kenjiro Hata
Arata the Legend vol 3(£7-50, Viz) by Yuu Watase
Your Love Sickness(£9-99, June) by Hayate Kuku
Rin-Ne vol 4(£7-50, Viz) by Rumiko Takahashi
Cactus’s Secret vol 2 (£7-50, Viz) by Nana Haruta
World Of Warcraft: Shaman (£9-99, Tokyopop) by Paul Benjamin & Rocio Zucchi
Neko Ramen vol 2: Curry Is Also Delicious (£7-99, Tokyopop) by Kenji Sonishi
Bokurano Ours vol 2 (£9-99, Viz) by Mohiro Kitoh
Manga Shakespeare: King Lear (£7-99, Self Made Hero) by William Shakespeare, Richard Appignanesi & Ilya
Manga Shakespeare: Twelfth Night (£7-99, Self Made Hero) by William Shakespeare, Richard Appignanesi & Nana Li
Manga Shakespeare: Henry VIII (£7-99, Self Made Hero) by William Shakespeare, Richard Appignanesi & Patrick Warren
Manga Shakespeare: Hamlet (£7-99, Self Made Hero) by William Shakespeare, Richard Appignanesi & Emma Vieceli
Manga Shakespeare: The Merchant Of Venice (£7-99, Self Made Hero) by William Shakespeare, Richard Appignanesi & Faye Yong
Manga Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing (£7-99, Self Made Hero) by William Shakespeare, Richard Appignanesi & Emma Vieceli
Ronin Dogs #1 (£2-99) by Mark Pearce ~
I found out about Mark’s comic in the same way I find most impossibly cool comics, by looking at Brandon Graham’s blog. Mark caught my eye amongst hoards of DIRTY PAIR fan art, ‘80s bargain bin finds and work by Brandon’s contemporaries in America, not only due to his Vaughn Bode by way of Jaime Hewlett art style, but because the man is Bristolian, therefore RONIN DOGS doesn’t incur the brutal cost of importing American mini-comics! Hurrah! Still I would be hard pressed to refuse stocking this no matter where in the world Mark resided, as RONIN DOGS #1 has that energetic, irreverent attitude of Hewlett’s early strips. It’s an attitude as particular to British comics as an accent, a dialect. It’s taken for granted, I think, now that so many writers and cartoonists from this side of the pond have found notoriety in America and that the two-fingers-up style is so widespread, but when I read something home-grown like this I feel like I’m ten again sneaking a read of my brother’s 2000AD and DEADLINE mags.
Anyway, enough reminiscing. RONIN DOGS is an intense whirlwind introduction to Derek, who you’ll notice is a skellibob rocking an awesome bit of ’tache, and Jen, a feisty gin loving fight-freak who Mark promised he would try and put in a onesie in a future instalment. The whole issue is basically a beautiful set up for a massive fight. After some ducking and diving from Robots, Pirates, Bounty Hunter scum, etc, the pair relax on a secluded peninsula, but let’s face it that’s not going to last is it? And not to give anything away but it has a riotous reveal which perfectly demonstrates Mark’s ability in this medium and that the guy can tell a joke visually.
Thor: First Thunder #1 of 5 (£2-99, Marvel) by Bryan J.L. Glass & Tan Eng Huat.
To this comic’s credit, the first issue of THOR – or rather the eighty-third issue of JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY in which Marvel’s version of Thor first appeared – wasn’t the most scintillating of secret origins, and that’s the full extent of the first issue here: a tweaking of the alien invasion that sees Doctor Donald Blake, on holiday in Norway, scuttling into a cave to avoid some giant rock-beasts. There, having lost his walking stick, he finds a gnarled branch of wood to serve the same purpose. Striking it in frustrated anger, it transforms him into the Mighty Thor, Norse God of Thunder, in body at least. It’s a while before he starts thee, thou, thying. In this new version he’s at it immediately, beseeching his all-father Odin not forswear him stuff out of disapproval. In fact the entire emphasis of the rewrite is on suffering the vocalised disapproval of a contemptuous, dismissive father: Blake’s.
There’s also an indigenous couple to save, which Thor refuses to do even when the woman is dangling from a root at the top of a precipice, just out of reach. Somehow the good doctor does, even though, you know, she’s just out of reach. And I’m afraid that’s the way it goes throughout. It’s barely more sophisticated than the original, and the art is grotesque, uglier than Whilce Portacio’s worst excesses (Whilce’s art can be phenomenally striking or hideously overwrought). Whether it will go on to explore how a Norse God is greeted by the good Christians of the USA in a more plausible way than the original run remains to be seen, but on the basis of the first issue, I suspect not.
Thor #615 (£2-99, Marvel) by Matt Fraction & Pasqual Ferry.
Dr. Eric Solvana is explaining his scientific theories of the Nine Worlds’ co-existence to Asgard’s finest scientific mind. If Asgard currently exists within Midgard – here on Earth – what now resides where Asgard once stood? Nothing, he postulates, a vacuum, a void. And the thing about vacuums and nature is…
Meanwhile, as Thor offers some tough love to King Balder The Brave, faltering with guilt over Asgard’s destruction under his rule, something is indeed cleaving its way through the Nine Worlds: a murderous army the likes of which has never been seen. Heimdall, the Asgardians’ look-out traditionally on watch at the end of the Rainbow Bridge, senses something too, and it’s brought him to his knees. So will Dr. Eric Solvana’s dire warning reach the mighty Thor in time, courtesy of this Asgardian scientist of the self-professed razor-sharp mind… or will the voluminous Volstagg need it explaining to him again, preferably using pies?
A smart start to Matt Fraction’s run with some clean art from Ferry – a contrast of light, bright humour and ominous speculation only confirmed by the bloodiest of horror.
Invaders Now! #1 of 5 (£2-99, Marvel) by Christos Gage, Alex Ross & Caio Reis.
I know it’s by Christos Gage, Alex Ross & Caio Reis because they refer to them as the writers and artist. Respectfully I think ‘artist’ is pushing it, and whilst whilst words were undeniably written, they weren’t very well chosen nor placed in anything close to an attractive order.
Thanks to some recent mini-series, the World War II Invaders are almost all alive and well again, although in Toro and the original Human Torch’s cases, they’re a little bewildered by modern methods of living. Then there’s catastrophe in a Dutch university hospital, Steve Rogers recognises the assailant’s symptoms and decides to call in the Avengers only for the original WWII Vision to materialise and say him nay:
“No, it must be the original Invaders!”
“Because that is the way it must be, or there will be grave repercussions for the… balance of… something.”
“Look, I for one don’t stand a chance of being back on the printed page if you call in the Avengers. There are already seven Avengers titles and you’ve got two Captain America series of your own. This original Invaders shtick is all I got going, and no one even remembers me as it is.”
“<sigh> Okay. You do you realise how atrociously you’re drawn, right? That colour scheme is horrible.”
“Jesus suffering %&*$.”
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Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Double Sided Guitar – M (£14-99)
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Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Double Sided Guitar – XL (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Do You Wanna Make Out? – Skinny Fit – S (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Do You Wanna Make Out? – Skinny Fit – M (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Do You Wanna Make Out? – Skinny Fit – L (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Do You Wanna Make Out? – M (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Do You Wanna Make Out? – L (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Skinny Fit – S (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Skinny Fit – M (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – Skinny Fit – L (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Character Map – M (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Character Map – L (£14-99)
Scott Pilgrim T-Shirt – Character Map – XL (£14-99)
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